Are the four Baconian idols still alive in demography?

Daniel Courgeau, Jakub Bijak, Robert Franck, Eric Silverman

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    In this paper, we examine the four Idols – errors of thinking and judgement – which according to Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum (1620) beset human minds. These are Idols of the Tribe – false assertions that the sense of man is the measure of things; Idols of the Cave – idols of the individual man; Idols of the Market Place – formed by the intercourse and association of men with each other, and Idols of the Theatre – stemming from dogmas of philosophies and … wrong laws of demonstration. We want to see if these Idols are still alive in contemporary population sciences, and look at several examples from the fringes of demography – behaviour genetics, postmodern theory, hereditarianism, and modern hermeneutics. The analysis of these examples strongly suggests that demography needs to remain faithful to the scientific method whilst looking for new insights and inspirations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)31-59
    JournalRevue Quetelet/Quetelet Journal
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2014

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